When you’re an avid beer fan, you collect a lot of beer. When you work in a brewery and are a beer fan, you collect a lot of beer you never thought you’d get to drink. Sometimes you get it and drink it all as fast as you can, and other times you hang on to it to savor. And sometimes you completely forget that you had it in the first place and you end up wishing you drank all your seasonally-released beer when you first got it. It can be a joyful and sad day cleaning out a beer collector’s beer fridge.
Lucky for you I’m documenting the cleaning out of a beer fridge. I’ve got some Colorado beers, some Louisiana beers, and some Texas beers and we’ll see what held up and what didn’t.
First up is Euphoria Pale Ale, a winter seasonal from Ska Brewing dry hopped with Simcoe hops that I picked up just before River Days in late May. The label on the bottom says to consume by June 23, 2017 (sadly places hand over heart). It pours a deep copper color with a firm, slightly tan head that lasts for the entire glass. The aroma is earthy, the familiar smell of old hops, with hints of melon, cola, and toffee. The flavor is a little sweet, the toffee coming through, with no melon or fresh hops, but still has a bit of a hop-bitter bite. When this beer is fresh, and when I had it in May, I usually tell people, “it’s like a Dale’s Pale Ale, but way better.” It’s still better than a Dale’s, but noticeably diminished given the age.
Next is Spur by Bayou Teche Brewing, a pale ale that is re-fermented in oak barrels with Belgian candy sugar. I picked it up in early spring this year after chatting with the brewery owner for way too long. It pours a rich, golden amber with white foam. On the nose there is a bit of floral and herbal and a tiny bit of the oak, but a load of tropical fruit. The taste is pretty sweet, with a good zing of those same tropical fruits, a little bit of candy and medicinal flavor, and a smooth finish with some very subdued hops. As it warms up, you get more barrel, more Belgian hygiene and more aged hop flavor.
One beer that I’m always on the lookout for, and was lucky enough to host one of the brewers last week, is Pearl Snap, a German-style pils from Austin Beerworks. I first had the beer on a trip through Austin five years ago and was blown away by how clean and refreshing it is. The beer pours a brilliant gold with a poof of white foam that settles fairly quickly but leaves rings of lace on the glass as you drink. The aroma is a perfect lager smell that combines subtle hop, malt, and yeast esters. The flavor is the same perfect combination with a little biscuit malt flavor, spicy hops, and fruitiness from the lager yeast.
The last beer to get cleaned out of my fridge is just a lucky find, a lime and cucumber gose from Urban South, which was only released through their taproom. Not sure how it ended up in the beer fridge at work, but I think it had to do with a trade for can lids with their brewery, which is about an hour away. It pours a hazy yellow, with some particulate floating as well. The aroma is straight-up key lime and a hint of herbal hoppiness. The flavor is the same and with just a nice hint of salt and the perfect balance of tartness. The particulate isn’t noticeable on the mouthfeel, though there is a little bit of a fuller mouthfeel. I definitely could crush a few of these.
Cleaning out the beer fridge isn’t always this easy or lucky. Most of the time I have major duds that go immediately into the garbage and the biggest lesson is don’t hang onto your beer. Beer is meant to be drank. Unless the beer is bottle-conditioned, very high alcohol, or very sour, it will not get better with age. It will go straight to shit. So drink ’em if you’ve got ’em.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.